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Not v Wor: First semi-final match-ups

Moeen Ali drives over the off side Getty Images

Nottinghamshire go into Finals Day's first semi-final as favourites with the bookmakers, but have struggled in recent games against Worcestershire. Player-on-player match-ups and tactical phases are a crucial part of modern T20's vocabulary: here are the battles to watch out for…

How do Notts solve a problem like Moeen?

It may seem unlikely to those used to seeing him struggle against Nathan Lyon with a red ball and white clothing, but Moeen Ali is an excellent player of spin in T20 cricket, and his five Blast innings this season have brought him 312 runs with a strike-rate of 175.28. Clearly, he is the key man for Worcestershire on Saturday.

Moeen has strong match-ups against two Nottinghamshire bowlers in particular, scoring 45 runs off the 23 balls he has faced from Samit Patel in the Blast, and 32 off 13 against Dan Christian.

The pace-off option offered by Steven Mullaney may prove a good one for Notts - he has gone at under a run a ball against Moeen in the Blast - though after he missed the group stage due to injury, picking Mullaney would be a big call.

In the past three years, few teams have risked offspin against Moeen early on, but he has only scored 22 off 23 balls against it in the powerplay, so Notts should persevere with their tactic of using Matt Carter in the first six overs.

At the death, Moeen's scoring rate is 14.52 runs per over since the start of 2017 - if he takes the game deep, Notts are in serious trouble.

Bowl left-armers to Whiteley

Ross Whiteley is yet to find his best form in the competition, but still has a strike-rate of 151.96. He destroys right-arm pace at the death, but struggles comparatively against fellow southpaws.

His scoring rate against left-arm spin in the middle overs is a conservative 7.30 runs per over, and against left-arm seamers at the death he is out every 7.9 balls he faces. It might make sense, then, to use Patel against him when he first comes in, before turning to Harry Gurney (though more on that below) and Luke Wood at the death.

Whiteley also takes the best part of ten balls to get set. His strike-rate five balls into his innings is just 82.55, but after a few sighters he can fly through the gears; Christian should start with an attacking field rather than letting him knock a single off his first few balls as is his wont.

Hatching a Hales plan

If Moeen is Worcestershire's undisputed star, then Notts will expect similar heroics from Alex Hales, who has an immense wealth of experience playing worldwide.

The good news for Moeen is that there is a clear chink in Hales' armoury with regards his relatively poor record against left-arm spin in the Blast: in the past three years, he has faced 24 balls from left-arm spinners in the middle overs, scoring 29 runs for three dismissals. The bad news is that Worcestershire have no such bowler in their squad.

And that issue does not extend to all balls turning away from the bat: in the last three Blast seasons he scored at 11.14 runs per over against legspin in the middle overs, so Moeen should not be tempted to use Brett D'Oliveira unless he has a cunning masterplan.

The best player-on-player match-up available to Worcestershire against Hales is either Wayne Parnell, whose 17 balls against him in Blast cricket have yielded only 19 runs, and one wicket, or indeed Moeen himself. Moeen has bowled 22 balls at Hales in all T20, giving up 21 runs and dismissing him twice; though one of those came only thanks to a physics-defying AB de Villiers catch in the 2018 IPL.

Adapting to Gurney's threat

Gurney is the most important bowler at the death for Nottinghamshire, and Worcestershire would be well advised to try to manufacture a match-up that works against him for the last five overs.

Since the start of 2017, Gurney's figures at the end of an innings are brilliant, but there is a reasonable split between his efforts against right-handers (economy rate 8.62) and left-handers (10.50) in that phase.

It would be worth making sure that Parnell, Moeen, or Hamish Rutherford manufacture the strike in a right-hand/left-hand partnership at the death when Gurney is bowling, while the difference in his records adds a further layer of importance to how Notts deal with Whiteley's threat.

Whiteley's record against Gurney is very good, and he is the best death hitter out of Worcestershire's lefties; he is the man most likely to take him down.

Notts 2nd innings Partnerships

WktRunsPlayers
1st51CD NashAD Hales
2nd49AD HalesBM Duckett
3rd37DT ChristianBM Duckett
4th2BM DuckettTJ Moores
5th1SJ MullaneyBM Duckett
6th6SR PatelBM Duckett